- Author: Harohalli R Shashidhar, MD; Chief Editor: Jatinder Bhatia, MBBS, FAAP more...
See the list below:
- The most helpful laboratory studies in assessing malnutrition in a child are hematological studies and laboratory studies evaluating protein status.
- Hematological studies should include a CBC count with RBC indices and a peripheral smear. This could also help exclude anemias from nutritional deficiencies such as iron, folate, and vitamin B-12 deficiencies.
- Measures of protein nutritional status include serum albumin, retinol-binding protein, prealbumin, transferrin, creatinine, and BUN levels. Retinol-binding protein, prealbumin, and transferrin determinations are much better short-term indicators of protein status than albumin. However, in the field, a better measure of long-term malnutrition is serum albumin because of its longer half-life.
- Additional diagnostic evaluation
- In children who have a history of adequate food intake and signs/symptoms of malnutrition, focus on identifying the cause of malnutrition. Perform laboratory studies based on information from a complete history and physical examination.
- Initial diagnostic laboratory studies include a CBC count, sedimentation rate, serum electrolytes, and urinalysis and culture. Stool specimens should be obtained if the child has a history of abnormal stools or stooling patterns or if the family uses an unreliable or questionable source of water.
- Additional studies may focus on thyroid functions or sweat chloride tests, particularly if height velocity is abnormal. Further diagnostic studies should be determined as dictated by the history and physical examination. For example, lab tests evaluating renal function, such as phosphorus and calcium, should be obtained in the presence of renal symptoms. Children with suspected liver disease should have triglyceride and vitamin levels obtained, while zinc levels should be obtained in patients with chronic diarrhea.
See the list below:
- Practical nutritional assessment
- Complete history, including a detailed dietary history
- Growth measurements, including weight and length/height; head circumference in children younger than 3 years
- Complete physical examination
- Sensitive measures of nutritional status
- Height-for-age or weight-for-height measurements greater than 2 standard deviations below the mean for age
- Height-for-age or weight-for-height measurements more than 2 standard deviations less than the mean for age
- Height-for-age measurements less than 95% of expected value
- Height-for-height measurements less than 90% of expected value
- Less than 5 cm/y of growth in children older than 2 years
- Body mass index (BMI), although this is not established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a criteria for failure to thrive
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